May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Kenneth Paschal Wins Special GOP Primary Runoff in House District 73

On Tuesday, U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Paschal won the special Republican primary runoff   election in House District 73. Paschal defeated Helena City Councilwoman Leigh Hulsey by 64 votes. The safely Republican seat was left vacant by Rep. Matt Fridy’s election to the Court of Civil Appeals. Paschal served 21 years in the Army before retiring in 2006. He is a past commander of the American Legion and a member of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. His primary runoff victory all but assures he will become the next representative from District 73. This would make Paschal the first African-American elected as a Republican to the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction.

May 3, 2021 Group Watch: Lawmakers Considering Delay of AL Literacy Act

The Alabama Legislature passed the Literacy Act in 2019 to emphasize the importance of making sure children learn to read in the earliest grades. The House Education Policy Committee held a public hearing on a Senate-passed bill that would delay its implementation until the 2023-2024 school year. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Rodger Smitherman, said the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during last school year and this school year are cause for putting off the requirement. Smitherman said the bill is designed to give students an opportunity to get prepared and be able to experience success. The committee did not vote on the bill, but the committee chair Rep. Terri Collins said she wanted the committee to meet next week and take a vote. Collins was lead sponsor of the Alabama Literacy Act.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Last week’s political and issue-based announcements were a mixed bag of good news on some fronts and setbacks on others. A bright spot: the state’s education efforts got some positive recognition.

This session’s big-headline bills — gambling and medical marijuana —  are both staying alive, but now waiting for a vote in the House, which, according to House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, may not come up for another few weeks.

And Alabama is moving to join the ranks of other states, including several in the South, that have laws on the books to make Daylight-Savings Time permanent, if and when Congress votes to allow it.

Find details on all this and more below.

The House and Senate return on April 27 at 1 and 2 pm respectively.
Watch live video of both chambers here.

  • Tuesday, April 20 (24th legislative day): The House passed a few bills of local application only and Senate-passed bills to add a consumer member to the State Board of Respiratory Therapy and to further provide for contracts affecting engineers and other design professionals. It also passed bills to prohibit racial  profiling by law enforcement officers and to further provide for the collection of certain data and the sharing of the data.The Senate passed bills to: prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement officers; to further provide for the collection of certain data and the sharing of the data; and to further provide for community development districts and the deposit of sales tax proceeds. The Senate also approved House-passed bills relating to schedule II-controlled substances; to require hospitals to bill an injured person’s health insurance and only seek compensation from health insurance unless certain circumstances apply; and to require healthcare facilities to allow one caregiver or visitor to patients or residents, subject to reasonable restrictions.
  • Wednesday, April 21 (a committee day): The House Education Policy Committee approved bills to provide tax credits for contributions to scholarship granting organizations and to make an additional appointment to the board of trustees for the Community College System. The House Ways and Means Education Committee approved Senate-passed appropriation bills for public education, supplemental appropriations for certain agencies, salary incentives for math and science teachers and education appropriations for several non-state entities. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee approved House-passed bills to provide an education assistance program for children of military persons and to provide comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs for children of disabled veterans with intellectual disabilities. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved bills to create additional legislative oversight on contracts and agreements and to create the State Employee Retirees’ Trust Fund Funding Act to provide periodic bonus payments to retired state employees.
  • Thursday, April 22 (25th legislative day): The House passed a number of bills of local application only and general bills to implement the Alabama Innovation Corporation and to authorize the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program. It also gave final approval to the Digital Expansion Authority relating to broadband and connectivity. The Senate gave final approval to several House-passed bills of local application only and House-passed general bills to: further provide for the authority of the Board of Social Work examiners; authorize the Secretary of State to conduct a one-time post-election audit of vote count; apply penalties to persons voting more than once in any election to include elections held in another state; and revise the timeframe for applying to vote absentee.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@JaniceDean
April 26
This is @tylerperrys incredible speech which most of Hollywood don’t want you to hear. God bless him.

84b3bbe1-becc-4eff-9ffb-5b68811399ea

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Gambling & Medical Marijuana Votes Likely Weeks Away

Recently, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said bills authorizing medical marijuana and establishing a lottery and gambling won’t come up for a vote in the chamber for a few weeks. The medical marijuana bill may not go to the floor until the last week of the session, expected in mid-May. Neither bill appeared on House committee agendas for last week. The gambling bill was transmitted to the House late last week after passing the Senate, along with companion bills on the regulation of casinos and distribution of proceeds. The combined package would establish a state lottery and six gambling establishments in the state. The medical marijuana bill, which passed the Senate in two previous years, passed the upper chamber in February with little debate or pushback. However, the bill has always experienced a rocky path in the House, and this year is no different. The bill was assigned to two committees instead of the usual one. The bill would authorize the use of medical marijuana for more than a dozen conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, sickle-cell anemia, and depression. Special dispensaries would distribute cannabis as tablets, capsules, gelatins and vaporized oils. The bill bans smoking or vaping cannabis or putting it in baked goods. Patients are required to have recommendation from a physician to obtain medical marijuana and would have to register as cannabis patients.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Sports Betting Component of Gambling Legislation

The package of bills related to expanding gambling in the state includes provisions for legalized sports betting. If the legislation makes it on the 2022 ballot and Alabamians vote it in, sports betting could be operating as early as 2023. The prospect of sports betting in Alabama has gotten the attention of outlets like “Gaming Today,” a national source for sports betting news. Check out its article here, which outlines this aspect of the broader gambling debate.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: AL Prison Project Loses Two Financiers

Two financiers have withdrawn from underwriting bonds for two prisons planned by Tennessee-based CoreCivic. One, London-based Barclays, stepped out amid criticism that the bank was breaking a promise to stop supporting for-profit prison companies. The bank reported that its objective was to enable the state to improve its facilities, but realized the complexity and importance of the overall issue. Ohio-base KeyBanc Capital Markets also pulled out of the deal without comment. Alabama would lease the buildings and property from CoreCivic and Alabama Prison Transformation Partners, a group that plans to build the Bibb County facility. The state would provide the staffing. Officials hoped to start construction of the prisons this year, with inmates transferred starting in 2025. The financing issue could delay the selling of the bonds to fund the project.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Ranks No. 1

Governor Kay Ivey announced that the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranks Alabama First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 15th consecutive year. Each year since 2017, Alabama First Class Pre-K has received increased support from the Education Trust Fund as recommended by the governor and approved by the  legislature. Access to pre-k grew to more than 34 percent of four-year-olds in the state, while continuing to meet all 10 NIEER quality standard benchmarks in the 2019-2020 school year. Alabama leads the nation in ensuring quality while also expanding program access, even expanding during the pandemic. The state’s strong investment in teachers and continuous improvement will produce a lifetime of benefits for the state’s children and its taxpayers.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Federal Funds Set for Childcare Facilities in AL

Childcare providers across Alabama are among the many hit hard by the pandemic and as such, are set to receive much needed assistance from the American Rescue Plan. More than $730 million in federal funding will help childcare providers open safely, keep workers on the payroll and lower childcare costs for hardworking families. The American Rescue Plan is also expanding the child and dependent care tax credit. A median-income family in Alabama with two kids under age 13 will receive up to $8,000 towards their childcare expenses when they file taxes for 2021, compared with a previous maximum of $1,200. For the first time, the CDCTC will be fully refundable, making the credit fairer by allowing low-income working families to receive the full value of the credit towards, regardless of how much they owe on their 2021 taxes.

April 26, 2021 Group Watch: Curbside Voting Ban Faces Scrutiny in Senate

Alabama Democrats stalled a bill on the Senate floor that would ban curbside voting in the state. Curbside voting allows someone to vote without going inside a polling location. Renewed efforts for the bill came after the coronavirus pandemic sparked an increased interest in curbside voting in Alabama. Democrats believe the effort to ban curbside voting is a barrier for people with disabilities to vote. Senator Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, expressed concern that lawmakers were rushing to change the voting laws when he believes the state’s voting system works in its current form. Although the bill was carried over, it can be brought up for consideration on another date.

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